Visualize for a moment the experience of walking through a quiet forest. Think about what your senses are taking in — cushy moss padding the bottoms of your feet, sunlight streaming in between branches, a babbling brook snaking through the forest bed. Really take a moment to imagine this experience.
If you just breathed a sigh of relief, then forest bathing might be the perfect addition to your wellness routine.
Contrary to what the name implies, forest bathing doesn’t involve swimming in a freshwater spring in the woods. Rather, it’s a practice in which you engage with the full sensory experience of a forest for numerous health and wellness benefits.
Let’s explore some of the incredible benefits of forest bathing, plus some tips to practice it effectively.
7 Health Benefits of Forest Bathing
The practice of forest bathing originates in Japanese history but emerged as a popular solution to the tech-boom burnout and urban sprawl that characterized the 1980s. Many scientists were interested in the therapeutic concept of forest immersion, thus the term shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing,” was born.
If you’ve ever spent any amount of time in the woods, you’ve likely experienced some of the psychological and physiological benefits of immersion in nature. Forest bathing takes these benefits to the next level by adding mindfulness practices or guided meditation to these experiences.
Here are some of the most notable benefits of forest bathing:
1. Strengthens the Immune System:
Spending time in the forest exposes you to phytoncides, compounds derived from plants with antibacterial and antifungal properties. These phytoncides can be exceptional immune boosters. In fact, one study showed that a mere two to three day forest bathing trip had immune-boosting effects a full 30 days after the subjects completed their trip.
As the fall weather turns colder, forest bathing can be an effective tool to help your body prepare to fight off illnesses throughout the cold and flu season.
2. Lowers Blood Pressure and Heart Rate:
If you’re looking for an effective way to lower blood pressure and heart rate, look to forest bathing. Research is unanimous in the conclusion that spending time in the woods can help with these conditions.
3. Improves Sleep:
Sleep is so important for all aspects of your health. If you’re looking to make changes to your sleep-care routine, forest bathing can significantly improve your sleep.
4. Boosts Mood:
Although research shows that spending physical time in the forest most improves your health, scientists agree that you can simply look at images and videos or listen to forest sounds to reap some of the benefits of forest bathing. Forest bathing, at the very least, can work wonders for your mood. In one review of 28 different studies, researchers even spoke to the effectiveness of forest bathing in reducing depression in adults.
5. Lowers Stress:
Effectively managing your stress is critical to maintaining well-being, since managing stress poorly can wreak havoc on your immune system. In the fall, you should be especially mindful of stress management as you get closer to cold and flu season. Forest bathing is an effective way to reduce stress-related hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline.
6. Enhances Energy:
If you want to boost your energy so you can handle more of your priorities, forest bathing yields an excellent return on your time. A simple walk in the woods can increase your physical energy so you feel better and are more productive. You can start by adding a forest bathing routine to your lunch break for a mid-day boost.
7. Enhances Mental Performance and Creativity:
The mindfulness or meditative approach to forest bathing sets it apart from your typical stroll in the woods. This mindfulness can lead to higher mental performance and heightened creativity, which allows you to accomplish more and be more effective at everything you do.
Forest bathing in autumn can be an especially powerful experience. Being mindful of the changing foliage and forest sounds can feel like a particularly immersive and cathartic experience.
How to Practice Forest Bathing
If you’re sold on the practice of forest bathing, you have several options ahead of you to put the practice into action. It’s important to understand that there isn’t a “wrong” way to forest bathe, but there are certain methods you can use to make your experience more effective and impactful.
Here are some tips to make the most out of your forest bathing experience:
1. Disconnect Completely:
As tempting as it can be, don’t bring your phone along, even if you’re just listening to music or a podcast. The goal is to immerse yourself in the forest and to be mindful of your surroundings. Unplug and disconnect from the outside world and be present with nature. Your phone will be there when you get back.
2. Look for Dense Trees:
The denser the forest, the better the experience will be. Look for a place that is far away from anything that could distract you. Cars whirring by and buildings all around you can distract you from the peaceful experience of nature.
3. Walk Slowly and Stop Often:
The goal is not to get from point A to point B, but rather to enjoy the journey. Take the time to fully immerse yourself in the woods and pay attention to the environment around you. Walk slowly and stop to take everything in; it’s not a race.
4. Consciously Engage with Your Senses:
Take the time to check in with what you can see, hear, smell, and feel. If you liken it to meditation, your goal is to always be present and aware of your consciousness.
5. Look for a Guide:
If solitary forest walks aren’t for you, look into practicing forest bathing with a guide or group. Simply do a quick search for one in your area. The guide could help you find the ideal spots for forest bathing and take you through mindfulness practices or intentions.
The Bottom Line
Forest bathing is an excellent way to experience the psychological and physiological health benefits of spending time in nature.
Take advantage of the beautiful landscape and weather to spend some time in the woods. This wellness practice can significantly benefit your work life, personal life, and health.
Although it’s a simple concept, forest bathing can be wildly impactful in your life. If you’re looking for more simple, yet effective ways of creating healthier habits, speak with one of our Arootah coaches about a personalized plan of action.